About the project
In October 2017, together with the PZU Innovation Laboratory, we launched a web application, one of the main assumptions of which is to support the creation of innovative solutions in the structures of the largest insurer in Poland. The PZU Idea Generator, implemented by us, is a platform for the exchange of ideas and observations of PZU Group employees, which allows for the collection and evaluation of proposals improving the functioning of the organization in business areas specified by the client.
What goals did PZU want to achieve?
By creating the PZU Idea Generator, the client wanted to enable the PZU Group employees to submit their ideas in the framework of competitions supporting the development of the organization in the most important business areas.
At the same time, we wanted to unify the channels that PZU employees had used so far to present their proposals for changes in the company, so that they could use one dedicated tool. This step was aimed at ordering and intensifying the processes of implementing innovations in the company's structures, as well as stronger involvement of its employees in more active means.
After all, who knows best how a business should operate? His employees. Therefore, PZU enables them to actively participate in the development of the PZU Group. Thanks to this approach, the organization gives subjectivity to people working within the company and gives them the possibility of active and real influence on the further development of the company. As a result, it strengthens commitment and better finds the greatest talents among all employees of the Group.
The creation and then implementation of the PZU Idea Generator allows to achieve the above-mentioned goals, set by the client.
What the project's assumptions were
The client expected the creation of a functional platform for the exchange, evaluation of ideas, as well as discussions on them, in which the employees of the PZU Group participated.
It was required that the website was designed so that it could operate efficiently with a growing number of users. Their increase from month to month is growing as more and more business areas are included to take an active part in submitting ideas using the tool we have prepared.
PZU's Idea Generator is a web application that can only be used by PZU Group employees. Access to the application is impossible for anyone outside the organization. Therefore, one of the most important customer requirements was our fulfillment of the high requirements provided by the PZU security department.
Users' ideas come first
The most important thing when creating the Ideas Generator was the assumption that these "ideas" should be the essence of the entire application. Therefore, users can submit their suggestions in a very simple and accessible way from the level of almost every subpage of the Idea Generator. At the same time, mechanisms have been implemented that allow you to save ideas before their publication (sketches), as well as adding attachments and validating duplicate applications, which prevents duplication of the same proposals or those that will violate the regulations.
In addition, it was crucial that the tool supported joint initiatives of employees who want to improve the operation of the organization. Therefore, ideas can be submitted individually, but also in groups by indicating co-authors.
The mechanism of organising thematic competitions
The function of competitions organized by the PZU Innovation Laboratory is also of key importance in the Idea Generator. Therefore, the application allows you to create dedicated sections for thematic events that are the driving force of the tool. They define the type of problem that PZU employees later face, proposing their solutions aimed at increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.
In the Ideas Generator, we have implemented four types of users who can use the tool. Those include:
- ordinary user - the basic role in the application that allows you to submit, comment and evaluate ideas;
- expert - his role is to provide substantive care over specific business areas in which other users submit ideas;
- moderator - is a user whose task is to ensure that the provisions of the tool's regulations are complied with. He can reject ideas and decide which of them comply with the rules, aren't duplicates existing ones, etc.
- administrator - manages the entire application at each permission level.
Gamification of users
An important factor supporting the involvement of users who submit their ideas via the application is the mechanism that gamifies their behavior by:
- assigning dedicated ranks depending on the activities that users perform in the application
(eg. Innovator for the person submitting the most of their own proposals and solutions);
- Employees earn points along with the ideas, votes cast, and participation in discussions on other users' suggestions. Then these determine their place in the activity rankings;
- being an active user of the Idea Generator is also associated with gaining experience points and subsequent levels. The most committed and experienced employees may become moderators or experts in their business areas in the future.
Extensive administration panel
Administrators and moderators of the PZU Idea Generator use an extensive administration panel, which allows, inter alia, on:
- creating and editing user groups along with assigning specific PZU Group business areas to individual collections;
- freely manage existing, completed and upcoming competitions;
- moderating ideas (accepting new ideas, rejecting duplicates or submissions that violate the regulations of the tool, etc.);
- management of gamification mechanisms;
- managing the news module (adding new and editing the current ones);
- management of e-mail notifications received by users of the PZU Idea Generator;
- analysis of statistical data collected by the application;
- user management, e.g. deactivating unused accounts or reactivating them.
What was the cooperation between PZU and eEngine like?
The implementation process was based on agile methodologies, the quintessence of which was to divide the time for implementing the PZU Ideas Generator into two-week sprints. As part of them, there was close cooperation between the eEngine project team and the product owners (PZU Innovation Laboratory).
The project was scheduled for 16 weeks of analytical and development work. We managed to complete it in the assumed schedule, not exceeding its scope in any way. The implementation of the PZU Idea Generator consisted of the following stages:
- analysis stage - during that time, the project manager, designer and the eEngine team leader worked closely with the PZU Innovation Laboratory, which resulted in the preparation of over 150 pages of documentation describing the PZU Idea Generator and all its most important functionalities. At the same time, the final graphic design of the application was developed. This stage lasted 6 weeks.
- implementation stage - after a detailed analysis of the project, our team of programmers could start working and implementing the PZU Idea Generator. In addition to clean coding, we also wrote unit tests that resulted in minimal defects when the product was picked up by the customer. This stage lasted 8 weeks.
- start-up stage of the PZU Idea Generator - we devoted the last weeks of the project to working together with the security department and PZU's internal testers. Their task was to verify the correctness of the implementation. We, in turn, were responsible for adapting the tool to the client's requirements in terms of IT security. This stage lasted 2 weeks and was the most intense of all.
The entire implementation took place in an atmosphere of direct communication. The analysis stage was supplemented by workshop sessions with the client. During those, we refined the scope of functionality and responded to the most important business challenges. All this to best understand the needs and expectations of PZU regarding this tool and to finally deliver in the form of a working IT product.
An element complementing the implementation process was eEngine's training in the administrative service of the PZU Idea Generator for the support section (helpdesk) and the preparation of functional documentation for the tool.
Technologies that drove us during implementation
To create the Ideas Generator, we used the Ruby on Rails framework, which helped us maintain the transparency of the code and build a dedicated application, with the thought of further development and adding new modifications and functionalities.
RoR also allowed us to use many modules to accelerate creating the application itself, e.g. (Devise for user authentication, Cancancan for determining access and authorizations for various user groups).
We devoted a lot of energy to the preparation of the test environment, which in practice translated into quick writing of unit tests. Thanks to them, we have achieved a high quality of implementation and a relatively small, practically zero, number of errors after commissioning.
One of the most important mechanisms that had to be introduced into the application was a tool for mass mailing. It was a requirement on the client's side, which may seem insignificant, but in the context of business processes and communication within the PZU Group - crucial. Especially that the mass mailing of messages (notifications about changing the status of the idea or other actions) could not block the entire application. Faced with these requirements, we used the rails gem - Sidekiq. This allowed us to handle a multitude of processes taking place in the PZU Ideas Generator at the same time, without any loss to the efficiency of the entire tool.
Cooperation with eEngine so far has been successful. The platform helps us develop employee innovation. The portal works flawlessly, and all modifications are implemented efficiently and are preceded by a thorough bilateral analysis, so that the changes fully meet our expectations. I am glad that we can always count on suggestions and proposals for solutions based on eEngine's experience, which help to improve the operation of the Idea Generator.
DIRECTOR OF INNOVATION
As part of the assumed schedule and budget, we have implemented a web application, which is currently used by the PZU Group as an aggregator of the best ideas and solutions in the business areas selected by PZU. The implementation of the PZU Ideas Generator at the time specified by the client was possible thanks to a detailed analysis of the project, the involvement of the PZU Innovation Laboratory in the conceptual process of product development and conducting unit tests.